Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Denounces Chechen Separatists

Russia's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly denounced Chechen separatists Friday, accusing them of violating the peace agreement and criticizing their plans to hold elections.

The State Duma's resolution carries no legal weight. But added to recent statements by high-level Russian officials, it casts further doubt on whether the peace agreement has Moscow's full support.

The Duma accused the rebels of failing to disarm or withdraw their fighters from Grozny and called on President Boris Yeltsin to beef up troop strength in the region.

The Duma's resolution, passed in a 276-33 vote with two abstentions, said separatists' plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in January were in violation of the Russian constitution.

The pro-Moscow government elected last year should be included in a coalition government, it said.

Fears that the controversial peace accord signed in August might collapse have grown since the ouster last week of Alexander Lebed, the national security chief who reached the agreement with rebel leaders.

His successor, Ivan Rybkin, has consistently expressed his support for the deal and he met Friday in Moscow with a representative of the Chechen separatist government.

The accord calls for Russian troops' withdrawal before the end of the year, while putting off the explosive issue of Chechnya's political status for five years.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other Russian leaders, however, continue to insist that Chechnya must remain part of Russia.

The Duma's resolution "confirms the status of the Chechen republic as a region of the Russian Federation.''

It also calls on the government to take extra measures to ensure law and order in Chechnya and to create a program for people, presumably ethnic Russians, who wish to leave the Caucasus Mountain republic.

The separatist government expressed concern Friday that Russia was going back on the accord, pointing specifically to Russian plans to leave two brigades in Chechnya.

Russian troops have been pulling out of Chechnya, but officials have balked at the withdrawal of two brigades which are to be permanently based in Chechnya under orders Yeltsin issued earlier this year.